Book launch of ‘Pearls 36’
By Caroline Ho, Arts Editor
The Douglas College Creative Writing department has launched the 36th annual edition of Pearls, an anthology of student-written works from a variety of genres and a range of courses in the department.
The release of the volume was celebrated at a book launch event that took place last Friday evening in the Studio Theatre, where 10 students read selections from their writings published in Pearls 36. An audience full of faculty, fellow students, and other guests got to hear these writers share their poems, narratives, stories, and scripts aloud.
After a brief welcome by much-adored Creative Writing chair Elizabeth Bachinsky, she handed the podium over to the writers. Each student’s presentation was prefaced by a short introductory spiel by one of the department’s instructors, who lauded their students’ creativity and ability to impress even these seasoned writing teachers.
The first reading of the night was by Alexandra Atleo, who presented a poem about professions. Her piece is a delightful read on paper, but aloud it was even wittier, paced perfectly to flow from line to line.
Several students shared excerpts from personal narratives, written about their own experiences. Glenda Leznoff, who teaches Personal Narrative along with Screenwriting and Fiction, told attendees that this genre is challenging in that it demands a lot of risk-taking from the writer to open up about intimate details in published anthology form, and in front of a sizeable audience. Cayenne Bradley read a touching narrative about some inner demons in her family. Keaten Campbell also shared a segment of a narrative that he wrote, drawing listeners into his struggles to discover a sense of home.
Less filled with personal detail—but no less touching—were the excerpts from fictional stories read at the launch. Amy Groves’ story about an audacious old granny and her disabled dog had the audience chuckling along to the heartwarming tale. Amanda Marier’s self-described “dark and twisty story” set the nightly scene of a woman’s smoking habit, an excerpt that was all the more enrapturing due to the abrupt point at which she paused the reading.
Pearls 36 also contains speculative fiction, a genre which is relatively new to Douglas College and has only been taught in the department for a few years. Speculative fiction often includes aspects that are scary, fabulous, and magical; the first of these was definitely present in the excerpt read by Rohman Barisoff from his story, which included pain, a dog, and a discomforting dental problem.
Vannesa Romein presented part of a picture book, although she told the audience that they would have to use their own imaginations to supply the pictures, which were easy enough to envision with her charming tale of a complacent king and his knight.
The book launch even included readings from a screenplay, a format of presentation that gives a considerably different experience compared to reading a script in print or watching it acted out in film. Carson Marquardt’s screenplay follows a hitchhiker picked up by a woman with a surprise in her trunk. The screenplay was brought to life rousingly as Marquardt and guest readers flitted between scene directions and dialogue.
Near the end of the event came the presentation of the Maurice Hodgson Creative Writing Award of Distinction, given in honour of the late Maurice Hodgson, who was the head of the Creative Writing Department for many years. Bachinsky explained that usually the department chooses two students to recognize, Gold and Silver, but this year the faculty was so impressed that they had to name two Gold recipients: Hannah Ewing and Blake Rayment.
The two talented writers gave short speeches of appreciation for the incredibly supportive and welcoming Creative Writing community before reading from their own works. Rayment shared a segment from his personal narrative about his painful experience with kidney stones as a child, a story of cringe-inducing hilarity. Ewing read a part of her fictional piece featuring a young woman who is pondering, among other things, the fragility and futility of life.
Hearing all of the works read aloud by their writers adds a new level of intimacy to the pieces. Many of the presenters chose to end their excerpts on cliffhangers, giving audiences extra incentive to pick up a copy of Pearls 36, which is available in the campus bookstore.